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Karen Boschen, PhD

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Assistant Professor of Neuroscience and Physiology




Biomedical Sciences Program
Neuroscience and Physiology
Neuroscience Program


Developmental neurobiology

Molecular mechanisms of prenatal alcohol exposure

Genetics and epigenetics in prenatal drug sensitivity

Mouse models of neurodevelopmental disorders



Additional Training: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2023


The goal of our research is to understand how alcohol exposure during early gestation disrupts development of the brain and face.

Our lab investigates region- and timing-specific mechanisms of prenatal alcohol pathogenesis using an in vivo model of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD). In particular, we are interested in how alcohol exposure during early gestation affects cell cycle kinetics, the balance of cell death vs. cell proliferation, and DNA damage repair processes. Another primary interest of the lab is determining whether prenatal alcohol exposure is associated with epigenetic modifications that impact gene transcription and how these modifications could contribute to the disruption of growth trajectories of specific brain regions. Finally, we study the long-term effects of alcohol on neuroanatomy and adolescent/adult behavior, focusing on alcohol-sensitive brain regions to correlate behavioral impairments with changes to specific cell populations.

The methods used in the lab include biochemical techniques, such as immunohistochemistry, co-immunoprecipitation, and gene expression assays, advanced imaging techniques using confocal and light-sheet microscopy, next generation sequencing and bioinformatics, and assessment of anxiety-like, social, and balance/coordination behaviors. The lab also uses transgenic mouse lines and manipulation of specific proteins to probe the contribution of key developmental pathways in prenatal alcohol sensitivity. 



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